Tag Archives: Focus Home Interactive

Yesterday is such an easy game to play

“Yesterday” is not my favorite song from The Beatles, nor is it my favorite point-and-click adventure game, but I enjoy both of them greatly. They are easy to listen to, easy to play, and leave me wanting a little bit more from their respective mediums. For those curious, depending on the day, either this or this is my favorite tune from The Fab Four. I don’t know if I’m ready to commit to saying what my favorite adventure game is yet. That’s kind of like naming the best cheese. Besides, there’s a bunch of so-called classics–here, I’ll name a few, like The Dig, Day of the Tentacle, and The Secret of Monkey Island–that I’ve still not touched despite having copies at the ready, which would probably affect my decision immensely. Probably.

Anyways, Yesterday from Pendulo Studios is a dark beast. A quick research of the company shows that many of its previous games were more comedic, but there’s not much to laugh at in this one, which features a lot of murdering, satanic worshipping, and forced suicides. It all starts with the philanthropic Henry White and his bungling friend Cooper. Both of these men work for a charity committed to helping New York’s homeless people. However, after a serial killer starts murdering members of the community, Henry and Cooper venture into the abandoned Cadway Subway station to see who they can help. It is here that they meet the murderous Choke and his assistant Boris and are forced to take drastic action. That’s more or less the prologue of the game, with the real meat of it focusing on satanic cult investigator John Yesterday many years later. He is recovering from an apparent suicide attempt that has left him suffering from amnesia because of course. Henry White now runs White Enterprises and has employed John to unearth the link between the serial killer and the occult known as the Order of the Flesh.

Yesterday, in terms of gameplay, is a pretty straightforward point-and-click adventure romp. You examine an environment, collect items in your inventory, chat with other characters for background details, and solve puzzles to move forward. Something that gave me a bit of anxiety was the high amount of items you often pick up and the fact that many of them do not vanish after being used. Reminded me of my time with Deponia, which was not a blast. Sometimes these items are used again later on, and sometimes they aren’t. You’ll never know until it is too late. Naturally, as it often happens with these types of games, some of the puzzles don’t follow the best logic this side of brain development, which leads to trying everything on everything in hopes of anything changing. If you only knew the number of solutions I came up with for acquiring a truth flower that didn’t come close to working.

Thankfully, Yesterday offers a couple tricks to help when you are stuck: a hint system and the ability to ping the scene and identify every object you can examine. The hint system builds up over time, so you can’t spam it, but it’ll point you in the right direction, though it can be a bit condescending. I ended up using it more than I would have imagined, but at least it let me stay in game and not close out to look up a walkthrough. You can also, at any time, press a button at the bottom of the screen to highlight every interactive object around you. This is great as it helped reduce pixel hunting, as there were occasionally a couple areas or items that I missed after doing an initial scan of everything.

I was pleasantly surprised with the conversations system. These occur with the two speakers framed in their own windows, with dialogue options in a bulleted list. As you move through each option, the boxes are checked off when the topic is concluded. New topics open us as you chat, and I found myself exhausting every topic, even if it didn’t immediately seem relevant to the puzzles at hand. I found the script and voice acting to be well done, save for that Frenchman who endlessly gave out tips on how to identify a Frenchman. At times, the whole thing reminded me of Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars. Occasionally, the subtitles did not match the spoken words perfectly, but that’s just me being an editor and too observant. Lastly, I’ll say that the game’s visuals are gorgeous and detailed and kept me interested in seeing what was next. I especially liked the comic book-style cutscenes.

The loopy narrative about investigating satanic cults and unraveling John Yesterday’s mysterious past comes to a close rather quickly, somewhat abruptly, and the post-credits scene added little to the whole picture and was completely unnecessary. It felt like things were just beginning to build to something grander, but once the villain began to explain why he did everything and how, I knew it was over. Still, I enjoyed going through Yesterday at a slow pace, over a few nights, eating up the atmosphere, characters, and designs to make puzzling out progress less frustrating. Maybe I’ll check out Yesterday Origins or one of Pendulo Studios’ other titles down the road. However, for now, I have some other point-and-click adventure games still to launch in my collection, and I just know that many of them won’t make things as easy as Yesterday did in this tiring day and age of too much to play and not enough hours on Earth. Boo to that.

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2017 Game Review Haiku, #40 – Yesterday

You got Y-shaped scar
Find thread to missing homeless
Puzzles, plot loopy

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is a crime, my punishment

sherlock holmes crimes and punishments black peter case gd post

I’ve seen one episode of the much lauded and Cumberbatch-starring Sherlock crime drama series, and even then I think I fell asleep towards the end of it. It wasn’t from total boredom, I swear. See, going into it, I wasn’t aware that every episode is basically a mini movie, clocking in at around 90 minutes. I was not prepared for this, thinking it would be much shorter, like a typical serialized drama (see Criminal Minds or Stranger Things), and starting the episode just before bed proved to be my undoing. One day, I’d like to watch more, but I haven’t reached that right one day yet.

In terms of videogames, I’ve never played one based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes detective stories, and there have been quite a few of them, especially from Frogwares. Well, I’m here to muse about Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments, the tenth entry in their series, which I and everyone else subscribing to a Gold membership on Xbox One got for free back in March 2016. Strange enough, a year earlier, I also got a free copy on my PlayStation 3 for PlayStation Plus, along with CounterSpy and Papo & Yo. Here’s an early spoiler: I’ve uninstalled both versions of the game.

Plot is actually a difficult thing to describe for this game. Mostly because there isn’t a main through-line. There’s an overarching story about group of terrorists called the Merry Men, who are attempting to overthrow the government and free the people of the United Kingdom from debt. It’s extremely minor in the grand scheme of things, showing up once early in the game and then at the very end where you are tasked to make a moral choice, one that probably seemed epic in the developers’ minds, but didn’t actually matter. Other than that, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is split into six separate cases, with some being direct adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work, such as “The Fate of Black Peter.” Each case is self-contained, and they range from a train that mysteriously vanishes to a murdered archeologist in a bath house to the theft of exotic, poisonous plants from a botanical garden. I came away enjoying a few of these cases, but ultimately not caring too deeply about the characters involved or the actual outcome, so long as it netted me an Achievement in the end.

Gameplay is, more or less, a traditional point-and-click adventure game. Except you aren’t using a mouse to hover over items and click on them. Instead, you control Sherlock Holmes–and sometimes Watson or a dog!–and you can play in third person or first. I went with the latter, as I found it easier for examining areas and moving around with a solid camera angle. You look at items in the world, speak to witnesses and suspects, solve a mixed bag of puzzle types, and finally make enough deductions to pin the crime on someone. My favorite part was connecting clues to make deductions and see ways the crime could have happened, as well as analyzing witnesses to learn more about them and open up dialogue options. Sure, L.A. Noire did it better, but that’s okay.

My biggest problem with Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments has to do with its loading screens. I’m not against loading screens and will never be against them, as I understand their purpose, even in this day and age of modern gaming, but you have to travel to and fro a whole bunch in this game, often returning to your apartment on Baker Street multiple times during a case, and these loading screens are drab and long, probably worse than the ones in Secret Agent Clank. Backtracking is the name of great detective work. Unfortunately, each time you travel to a different place, you are treated to a loading screen in the form of Sherlock riding inside a horse-drawn carriage to the actual place you are going. Sometimes he is alone, sometimes Watson is there with their knees awkwardly close, but regardless you are just watching Sherlock read a book or look out the window the entire time. You can open your notebook during the ride to review clues and such, but I began to use this downtime as great moments to play on my phone. Honestly, I would have rather watched a generic bar fill up. I’d estimate you see this screen roughly 15 to 20 times during any given case.

One of the more troubling parts of Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments appears in every single case chapter. Well, I guess one could not see it, but when I’m roleplaying the titular Sherlock Holmes I’m being as observant and scrutinizing as possible, which means checking every corner and shelf and thing for clues. That includes the telescope his keeps in the main room on Baker Street. If you look through it, you’re treated to the fixed sight of this busty woman:

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments_20140928125417

Now, nothing happens. Sherlock makes no comment, the woman simply stands there and stares back, and about five seconds of silence passes before you are booted out of the telescope’s point-of-view. I examined the telescope at the start of every case, just as I did with Toby, to see if anything would happen or change. Nope, same sight, same seediness. I figured she would come into play at some point in the game, for some case or another, but that never happened, and I think all we got in terms of reference was a quickly dismissed line from Watson at the end of the game, implying that Holmes should stop doing that creepy thing with the telescope. Evidently, after doing some research outside the game, it turns out this character is from a previous entry in the series. Hmm.

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments was a game I didn’t expect to frustrate and bore me as much as it did, but I’m the kind of person that not only likes to finish what I start, but sometimes needs to. So I persevered and finished, only to realize I missed two Achievements and had to go back and replay a couple cases. Thankfully, you can mash your way through most of the dialogue and cutscenes, as well as skip every puzzle if you wait a minute or two. Still couldn’t do anything about those cutscenes. If there’s one deduction I reached, it’s that this was not iceberg-like pacing and lackluster detective work equals enjoyable, and I don’t expect to try any more future–or previous–mystery adventures starring the eclectic Sherlock Holmes in 19th century London.